Steve Breaston (Getty)
After the 2008 season, the Cardinals were more concerned about shoring up their defense than they were about improving their offense. After all, the club scored 404 points, the second most in a season in franchise history. But the offense struggled through the final two weeks of the preseason and in a 20-16 loss to the 49ers in the opener.
Quarterback Kurt Warner looks uncomfortable. Two of his top three receivers are dealing with significant injuries, and the offensive line struggled to protect Warner against the 49ers.
The players are concerned, and several have pointed to poor performances in practice as a reason.
The Cardinals looked this bad at times in games last year, but usually a big play would put them back into rhythm. That big play didn't come against the 49ers.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt believes the unsettled situation at receiver is a big contributor to the problems. Anquan Boldin was limited last week with a hamstring injury. Steve Breaston, the No. 3 receiver, didn't play because of a knee injury. Early Doucet, the fifth wideout, didn't play because of fractured ribs.
Breaston practiced all last week but was in too much pain on Sunday morning to play. That forced Boldin into action, even though he hadn't practiced in three weeks.
"We had a number of guys playing out of their normal position," Whisenhunt said. "That will to us not being sharp. Now, I'm not going to make an excuse because we have been able to overcome those things in the past."
Whisenhunt hinted at design changes in practice this week.
"We will make sure we are better suited for the game," he said, referring to Sunday's game against the Jaguars.
The running game needs work, too. The Cardinals gained just 40 yards on 17 attempts.
Whisenhunt thought initial holes were open but that players did a poor job of blocking linebackers and safeties.
"Our secondary blocking patterns weren't as efficient as they needed to be," he said.
Before the season opener, some key veterans emphasized the need to practice well. It's a message strong safety Adrian Wilson will repeat this week.
"You're dang right we're upset," Wilson said. "And that's why there's going to be a lot of yelling around here in the next 48 hours."
SERIES HISTORY: 3rd regular-season meeting. Jacksonville leads the series, 2-0. The teams are playing for the first time since 2005, when the Jaguars won, 24-17. The Jags also won in 2000, 44-10, in Jacksonville. The Cardinals are leaving on Friday for the Sunday game in order to adjust to the three-hour time change.
--Adrian Wilson wasn't fined for a hit on TE Vernon Davis that drew an unnecessary roughness call. Wilson has been fined numerous times in the past, and the league put him on notice last year that another infraction could result in a suspension. Wilson said he isn't going to change his style.
"I'm a ballplayer, man," he said. "The rules are what they are, but at the end of the day, I'm a football player and I'm going to do what's best to try and disengage the football. I won't change nothing I'm doing."
--WR and special teams captain Sean Morey is one of three current NFL players who have agreed to donate their brains after death to Boston University. The university's medical program is studying sports brain injuries. Morey acknowledged he's had more concussions than he cares to admit.
"I just felt it was part of my duty as a member of the Players Association and as an active player to try and create awareness for all athletes at all levels," he said. Ravens center Matt Birk and Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu were the other two players.
--The Cardinals led the league in penalties in 2007 but were much better in 2008. In the season opener, however, they committed 12.
"I'm definitely concerned about the penalties," said linebacker Karlos Dansby. We're a veteran group and we can't make those kinds of mistakes. We've got to grow up and move past this and get better."
--The Cardinals have talked for weeks about improving their level of play. Yet in the season opener they performed as poorly as they did in the final weeks of an 0-4 preseason. "We need to figure it out and get back to the drawing board and clean it up," quarterback Kurt Warner said.
Guard Reggie Wells said "we all need to step it up. Success is nothing to be afraid of."
BY THE NUMBERS: 29 -- The percentage of time the Cardinals converted on third downs last week against the 49ers. They were 4 of 14.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we can hold teams to 203 yards of total offense, and we get our offense going, which I expect us to do, we are going to win some games." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the performance of his defense in the first game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SS Adrian Wilson agreed to restructure his contract in order to give the team some salary cap relief. The Cardinals moved $3 million of Wilson's $8.5 million to a bonus, creating $2.4 million of cap room. Before the deal, the Cardinals were less than $1 million under the cap.
The move was made so the team could handle any personnel matters that came up this season. It wasn't done with the idea of extending receiver Anquan Boldin's contract. The club probably isn't going to address that until 2010.
The Cardinals signed defensive lineman Keilen Dykes from the practice squad and released receiver Lance Long. The Cardinals needed another defensive lineman because backup end Kenny Iwebema is out at least a week with an ankle injury.
The club signed receiver Onrea Jones to the practice squad, after Long signed with the Chiefs' practice squad.
--OT Jeremy Bridges was the team's backup at both tackle spots and guard positions last week. The only other reserve was center Ben Claxton.
--WR Steve Breaston's availability is key to the team's offense and special teams. Breaston is not only a threat as the No. 3 receiver, he also returns kicks and punts.
--FS Antrel Rolle did a nice job in his first regular-season action as punt returner. He had a 27-yard return and averaged 11 yards on five returns.
--RB Beanie Wells could get more playing time after looking quick and explosive in the opener. Wells had a 15-yard run. He did, however, run the wrong way on his first play.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald became the second fastest player in league history to amass 6,000 receiving yards. Fitzgerald, 26, was slightly behind Randy Moss, who was 25 when he reached that mark.